Winter Ash | Idris Mansaray

    “Ian… you stay put now. They won’t get you if you stay put.” I crouched in the bushes with my elder brother Alex holding me tightly. Was he protecting me, or did he need me more right now? My father on the other hand gazed stoically across the horizon, not daring to meet our eyes. His glasses had fallen far down his face, but he didn’t dare raise them, he didn’t dare move or even breathe… none of us did.
    “Quiet boys…” he said.
    An AFE soldier stood near our farmhouse, darting his eyes in search for us. He took out a pamphlet and coughed loudly. “Gregory Aldrich, you’re hereby under arrest for crimes against the American Federal Empire! Your crimes: treason, resisting arrest on multiple occasions, assault on several military offi-”
    “Torch the place.” The soldier turned to face a gray haired man. He wore a white officers uniform with a shoulder cape, differing from the generic black uniform AFE soldiers wear. Judging by the multiple badges he wore on his chest and shoulder, he was probably of a higher rank.
    “Commander Stein, with all due respect. If we do that, all of Aldrich’s work will be lost… we need it.”
    “Then we’ll make him do it again. Quantum mechanics, multiverse theories, the man's well versed in all of it. Consider it punishment for his crimes. He already knows full well what he’s done, so torch the place… don’t make me ask again.” Commander Stein stared deep into the younger officers eye, looking for any sign of insubordination.
    “O-of course,” the younger officer turned towards the other soldiers and saluted them. A few soldiers with gas tanks on their backs came from the rear of the battalion and pulled out a long hose.
    “Torch it, set ablaze, light em up… teach Aldrich a lesson,” Commander Stein said with a sadistic laugh.
    “Dad, we gotta run. Forget the farm,” Alex said to my father. 
    “No no no… we can’t, moms stuff,” I said desperately. My father gritted his teeth. A bead of sweat rolled down his face. He wasn’t thinking about the actual farm, or even moms stuff but his entire life's work was in it, he was about to lose it all.
    “If we run now, they’ll shoot us. He knows were around here, he wants to draw us out. We run when they… torch the place” my father said reluctantly. The soldiers flipped a switch on their gas tanks. We heard a low rumble, and then sparks flew from the hoses… 
    It started slow, but the flames quickly got closer to the farmhouse, licking at the dry fields around it. In seconds, the place we once called home was engulfed in a storm of ember. I could feel the heat from where we hid. I watched in horror, unable to bear the thought that the last remnant of my mother were burning to ashes inside.
    “I feel sick…” I said. My father turned to me and grabbed my shoulders. He looked me in the eyes, peering into my soul.
    “Hey hey, Ian. You’ve gotta be my soldier, be daddy's little soldier. What did the soldier in winter want Ian?”
    “He wa- wanted to be God’s child,” I said on the verge of tears, quoting a line from the poem my father would constantly read to us.
    “Attaboy,” my father said. “God’s looking down on us, you’ll see.”
    Alex gripped my small hands even harder.
    My father grabbed both of our arms and pushed us forward just as the flames begun to draw near us.
    “Run boys!”
    Alex picked me up and we ran alongside our dad. I looked back to see Commander Stein staring at us through the wall of fire, his menacing eyes making him seem the victim. I gazed at him with rage, but his eyes just seemed to reply You hate me don’t you? well screw you too
    I knew I would hate him for the rest of my life. I hated him when he called the soldiers after us, I hated him when he shot my father as we ran, bringing him to his knees, I hated him when my father told us to run anyways, I hated him when he put a bullet in my father's head, and I hated him when Alex didn’t stop. He just kept running. We gotta keep moving Ian, honor Dads sacrifice, live for him… 
    Honor? Sacrifice? Screw that, I want to kill him, I want to fight for the resistance, that would avenge my father's death… 
    Though it wouldn’t be years until I realized, you don’t need geniuses to start a war, just two people who hate eachother and money, lots and lots of money. My father… he had forgotten one thing about the soldier in winter. It wasn’t God he needed to appease. He always was a child of God. In the ash of winter, in his wandering path, it wasn’t God’s, but man's own wrath…